When you think of Highland County, A-list Hollywood movies may not be the first thing that comes to mind. That could be changing soon, according to Kristen Schlotman of Film Cincinnati, a Cincinnati-based nonprofit agency that has been pivotal in bringing big-budget film productions to the area. Schlotman said the tax credits offered Ohio have incentivized production companies to choose Cincinnati.
When scripts call for more rural locations, places like Highland County, with their proximity to Cincinnati are attractive options.
To that end, the film “Bones & All”, which is slated to premiere Nov. 23 at the Star Cinemas in Hillsboro, according to manager Karen Riffe, was shot partially in Hillsboro in June of last year. The film, which stars Timothee Chalamet, Taylor Russell and Mark Rylance, is based on a novel by Camille DeAngelis. It won the Best Director Award for Luca Guadagnino at the Venice Film Festival last month. The film has also premiered in London and New York, with a Cincinnati premiere scheduled for Nov. 14, according to Schlotman.
For a film of this magnitude with a multi million dollar budget to end up using footage shot in Hillsboro was, in no small measure, owed to the diligence of local realtor Brigette Waggoner from Classic Real Estate, who said that a lead from the location scout assisting the “Bones & All” production company last year set off the chain of events that eventually led to the use of a house on Danville Pike in Hillsboro. Waggoner said that while the location scout originally wanted a house on the lake, the charm of the house they selected checked all the boxes for the interior decorating requirements.
“It’s all about customer service,” she said.
Residents in the area on the day of shooting like Avery Applegate, who volunteered her driveway as a staging area for vintage cars that were used in the production, remember the descent of Hollywood upon Danville Pike.
It’s not often that people living in rural Ohio see major Hollywood stars meandering about from their backyards, but that’s what happened to Hillsboro’s Meredith Keister, who watched with fascination as she caught a glimpse of the film’s star, Chalamet, from her back porch. Keister, who has a degree in theatrical wigs and makeup from Miami University, said that the arrival of the cast and production crew was especially interesting for her, and it gave her a firsthand glimpse of her studies in action in a major film.
Brad Tira, who owned the home that was used for some of the interior scenes shot for the film, said he was happy and excited to be a part of it. He said he was about to remodel the house, but its seemingly outdated decorating style was just what the producers wanted. Tira said that he grew up across the street from the house and spent his childhood playing with the kids who had lived there. When the filming was over, and he eventually remodeled the house, he said he found a school photo of himself at age 10, dated 1979, that he had given as a child to the residents at the time.
Whitney Seitz, Hillsboro administrative assistant, said the production of “Bones & All” obtained an event permit. She said that careful cooperation among city agencies assisted in the shoot. “The city of Hillsboro Street Department and Hillsboro Police Department were able to accommodate the requests of temporary street closures,” Seitz said.
John Daugherty, director of Film Columbus, emphasized the important economic aspects of bringing film production companies to Ohio.
“The film industry is all about jobs,” Daugherty said. “It’s not about Hollywood.” He cautioned temperance with regard to being starstruck and explained the pragmatic reasons for cultivating film protects within the region.
“While this business appears to be something glamorous, it’s all about creating opportunity and local jobs for Ohio residents,”he said.
That opportunity, Daugherty said, is highly contingent upon the film tax credits offered by the state.
“Films will always chase tax credits,” he said.
That is a sentiment offered by Schlotman, who expressed the need to “make people happy” and do whatever it takes to provide consistent, excellent concierge service to the productions that choose Ohio.
Schlotman recalled getting “Bones & All” star Chalamet tickets to a Reds game during the production’s time in Cincinnati. Chalamet donned a Cincinnati Reds ball cap while promoting the Wes Anderson film “The French Dispatch”, also starring Swinton, this past May at the Cannes Film Festival.
Daugherty echoed the need for states and regions to stay vigilant in their accommodation of film projects and the money they provide to the local economies the productions affect. “Currently, Ohio has a somewhat competitive tax credit, but it’s quite small compared to Pennsylvania, Illinois and of course New York, Georgia and California,” he said.
“The benefits of having these projects here is economic,” he added. “The economic impact of films is tremendous. If you start to think about local businesses, you began to realize the benefits,” mentioning things like hotel accommodations, transportation, restaurants, and other local services that benefit the film industry.
Daugherty also emphasized the need to create local opportunities for in-state workers to get involved with the industry, particularly through the development of internship programs.
“There are colleges all over the state that offer degrees in some type of entertainment. Creating internships is a great way to introduce them to the industry,” Daugherty said.
This issue was corroborated by Keister. She said that she lamented the lack of ways to get involved in the industry while moving in Ohio. Daugherty said he is hopeful that more programs can be developed to this effect to accommodate people in the state who want to get experience working in the film industry and stay in Ohio, instead of leaving the state for opportunities in more metropolitan career markets that offer industry specific opportunities that Ohio previously has not.
Daugherty said that while films shot in Columbus might not be that noticeable, for small towns like Hillsboro a film can create quite an economic impact.
Over a year after the “Bones & All” shoot, another film production is looking for a house in a rural setting to be part of a major project, and has approached Hillsboro realtors for location scouting, according to Waggoner.
The film, which is currently in pre-production at Warner Brothers Studios, is entitled “Wise Guys” and stars Robert De Niro. It is a mob-themed movie set in 1957, according to a recent report in Variety, which stated the project is to be directed by Barry Levinson. This wouldn’t be Levinson’s first venture in Cincinnati-based film making since his Oscar winning 1988 film “Rain Man” was also famously shot there.
Waggoner said they are looking for a rural house in the Highland County area that has, “acreage so they can park vintage cars” that would belong “to the guests of the family” for exterior location photography for a backyard barbecue scene. Other requirements would be that the perfect home should be of an older style architecture, perhaps a Victorian farmhouse and be well-kept to be believable of being owned by a wealthy, latter-day mobster.
Interested parties who think their real estate is appropriate for this unique opportunity can call Waggoner at 937-393-3416.
Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.